Were you too busy seeing “Silver Linings Playbook” for the second time to catch up on the five Oscar nominees for Documentary Feature this year? If so, don’t worry. We’ve got you! We spent hours watching the docs so you don’t have to.
Below you’ll find our guide to the five documentaries: what they’re about, why they’re Oscar-worthy and how you can keep the film’s message alive. Grab some popcorn and get comfy. Here’s what you need to know before the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday:
+ 5 Broken Cameras
What It’s About: A local Bil’in (a Palestinian village), Emad Burnat, chronicles the interactions between the Israeli military and local Palestinian villagers over the course of several years. The title refers to the five cameras Emad used to help film the documentary. The cameras were subsequently broken by the Israelis forces.
Why It’s Oscar-worthy: The efforts of the Bil’in locals inspire other, non-violent protests around the country and world, making the village a symbol of nonviolent opposition in the international community. For the rest of us, the film drives home the importance of bearing peaceful witness and taking part in community activism.
Keep It Going: Learn more about how our generation is trying to create lasting peace not conflict all over the world through Seeds Of Peace.
+ The Invisible War
What It’s About: “The Invisible War” is an investigative documentary confronting the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The film follows several survivors of military sexual trauma as they relay their experiences, their efforts to prosecute and get closure after their attacks and what they hope for from the Department of Defense.
Why It’s Oscar-worthy: If you ask director Kirby Dick, this documentary needs to win because “this is the film that — if it does get an Academy Award — it will motivate Congress, it will motivate the [Defense Department]. It will motivate the military to make even more changes. There will be a direct result from this winning the award and the reduction of rape. That will happen.”
Dick might not be far off: two days after watching the documentary, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took away the right to investigate sexual assaults from military commanders. This is a huge win for victims, considering how many could not report to their commanding officers because they were the ones who attacked them.
Keep It Going: More than 20% of women in the military have been sexually assaulted, which means women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire. Sign the petition to ask the Department of Defense to make “The Invisible War” a required “part of each Service’s officer accession training and officer developmental education programs.”
+ Searching For Sugar Man
What It’s About: Sixto Rodriguez, a prolific musician from Detroit, is wildly popular in South Africa, but virtually no one has heard of him in the United States. Two die-hard fans set out on a mission to answer some of the many unknown questions about his life and supposed death.
Why It’s Oscar-worthy: Using Rodriguez’s own music as the soundtrack for the film lends a rare authenticity to the project, and music lovers will appreciate the thorough look at the artist’s life, work and impact. It’s fascinating to see how one, relatively unsuccessful musician in the United States, could produce an album that simultaneously served as the anthem against the Apartheid, a form of racial segregation enforced in South Africa.
+ How To Survive A Plague
What It’s About: The film revisits the time period when AIDS first spread across the United States. Two organizations, ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), fought to turn AIDS from “a death sentence into a manageable condition.”
Why It’s Oscar-worthy: “ACT UP. Fight back. Fight AIDS.” This is the message relayed time and time again in the film. The film follows activists through the late 80’s and early 90’s as they desperately try to influence change in politics and the medical communities before they too succumb to the disease. One of the most heartbreaking moments of the film is when several members are asked if they think they will live to see an affordable and effective cure; the unfortunate answer, for most, is no.
+ The Gatekeepers
NOTE: As this film was only available in limited theaters at the time of writing this post, the review has been influenced by the trailer, the official site and the Academy Awards’ synopsis.
What It’s About: According to its website, the film chronicles, “for the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions.”
Why It’s Oscar-Worthy: The film “sheds light on the controversy surrounding the Occupation in the aftermath of the Six Day War.” Since the war, which happened waaaaay before any of us were born — in 1967, the film states that “Israel has failed to transform its crushing military victory into a lasting peace” The doc begins with the Six Day War and goes into present-day issues. These six former heads of security get into serious real talk and discuss the successes and failures of what they did through the years. The fact that they all talked so candidly and openly about their tenure was a big surprise to many. P.S. The New York Times totally sweats this film — they called it the best doc of 2012 and one of the best films of last year too!
Keep It Going: Watch “The Gatekeepers” trailer and learn about the six men in the film on this site.
Which documentary will take home the Academy Award this year? Share your thoughts below or tweet us your answer!
Get the 411 on HIV/AIDS
Learn more about HIV/AIDS, who's at risk, how to protect yourself, and more at It's Your (Sex) Life.
The Invisible War Petition
Tell the Department of Defense that military sexual assault prevention must start in training!